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Seven Books I Love, part one–The Jewels series by Anne Bishop

There’s a Facebook meme going around where you list seven of your favorite books in seven days. I thought I’d do mine as a series of blog posts. I’m going to cheat and do a few series mixed in with single books. This is not an absolute list–this is my seven of many favorite books. I could do one of these for children’s books, YA, adult, romance, and I’d still never even approach naming all my favorite books.

That said, here is book (series) one…

 

Seven hundred years ago, a Black Widow witch saw an ancient prophecy come to life in her web of dreams and visions.

Now the Dark Kingdom readies itself for the arrival of its Queen, a Witch who will wield more power than even the High Lord of Hell himself. But she is still young, still open to influence—and corruption.

Whoever controls the Queen controls the darkness. Three men—sworn enemies—know this. And they know the power that hides behind the blue eyes of an innocent young girl. And so begins a ruthless game of politics and intrigue, magic and betrayal, where the weapons are hate and love—and the prize could be terrible beyond imagining…

The Jewels series by Anne Bishop is such a favorite of mine that I usually reread it annually, with dips into a single book or the audiobook of Heir to the Shadows here and there. Daughter of the Blood does the world building and heavy lifting. I often skip it in my rereads, but I recommend reading it for first timers. Heir to the Shadows is by far my favorite book as it’s the lull between the bad of book one and the big show down of book three, and features some hilarious secondary characters.

I really like this series for the same reasons I like Anne Bishop’s writing in general. I think her world building is creative and expansive. She understands how her worlds work (as Seanan McGuire says–you need to understand and follow your own rules and the reader will follow you) and doesn’t go around changing the rules unnecessarily or rewriting her cannon (I’ll bring this up again with regards to a different series). Her characters come alive and are a mix of clashing and complementary personalities. The dialog is good and the character’s voices are distinct.

Why the Jewels series and not the Others or Ephemera or Gaian? There’s a playfulness to this series, despite the at time extremely dark events going on. One of my all time favorite characters, Karla, is the Queen of Glacia and one of Witch’s childhood playmates. When she appears in book two, she’s the first of Janaelle’s friends to demand to see the friend who’s been gone for years (for reasons explained between the end of book one and start of book two). She has a wicked sense of humor and a tartness tempered by a good heart. She is a literary crush, and yes, I’ve written some fanfic in my head involving her.

Witch is Jaenelle, a child who is so powerful that basic Craft is impossible for her, but she can do things no one else can do. She is destined to be the Queen of Darkness, but has no desire to rule others. However, because she can’t do basic Craft her family thinks she’s a waste of space, and when she talks about the fantastic creatures and people she’s met (like Karla, and unicorns, and so forth) she’s told she’s mentally disturbed and institutionalized. That leaves deep scars on her that remain the rest of the series.

She could go towards Darkness if the High Priestess gets her way, or to the Light if the High Lord of Hell can protect her.

The trilogy is the basis for the rest of the series. I also like the two books of three novellas each she’s released as well as The Shadow Queen and Shalador’s Lady, the latter two of which focus on another main character but feature the characters from the trilogy. I was not a huge fan of Tangled Webs–I think it’s the weakest book in the series, but the framing device of a horror house that can actually kill you, set as a trap for the SaDiablo family didn’t work for me, nor did I think Surreal carried a book on her own well.

If you like fantasy with an edge of dark eroticism, you’ll like this series.

Trigger warning–there is a rape of a child in book one and the repercussions of that rape echo through the rest of the series.

You can buy an omnibus of the trilogy in paperback here  for 20 USD or you can separately buy Daughter of the Blood (2.99 on kindle), Heir to the Shadows (5.99 on kindle), and Queen of Darkness (8.99 on kindle).

Meeting a childhood idol

I’ve always been a reader. It’s been part of my identity for so long I don’t even remember learning how to read, apart from knowing I was precocious in that area. I was lucky that the adults in my life–my family and my teachers–never tried to clip my wings when it came to books.

Want to read The Secret Garden and A Little Princess at six but don’t know the vocabulary? Here’s a dictionary.

Want to read trashy teen horror books like The Prom Dress? I’ll buy it for you/allow you to spend your money on it even though it’s meant for much older children. (Read my super snarky review “The best ‘bad’ book I’ve ever read.”)

Oh, you want to read books from the adult section of the bookstore/library? That’s ok with me. Cue my mom signing the slip allowing me to take out adult books–although I wonder in retrospect if she’d have let me if she knew I was going to become a huge V.C. Andrews fan. Flowers in the Attic is about a mom who locks her four children in an attic, tries to kill them with arsenic, and features a scene in which a brother rapes his sister. And that’s just the first book in that series.

My point is that books have always been a huge part of my identity.

I’ve always been drawn to fantasy, as was my fourth grade teacher in retrospect. She read us the first three books in the Narnia series (aka the only good books in the series–everyone dying in the rapture except Susan because she wears lipstick is a bullshit ending). Then she read us The Hobbit. Fellow fantasy readers naturally picked up The Lord of the Rings next. I thought The Hobbit was a sausage fest and I wanted a fantasy book with a female heroine (yeah yeah Eowyn’s “I am no man” is badass, but she’s only there because she’s following a dude and then hangs up her sword–this is not the female heroine I was/am looking for).

I don’t remember if I stumbled across Tamora Pierce or if someone recommended it to me. But I do remember reading Alanna: The First Adventure, and feeling so happy to see a strong feminist main character. Alanna is supposed to go to the convent to learn to be a lady and her brother Thom is supposed to go to the capital and learn to be a knight. This isn’t what either of them want, so Thom forges their letters of introduction and he goes to the convent, where sorcerers receive their initial training and Alanna poses as “Alan” and goes to learn to be a knight.  Over the four books she does just that and becomes a hero of the realm.

Tamora Pierce consistently writes strong female protagonists, and I fell in love. She was also my introduction (along with 80’s Madonna) to the idea that women like sex and can be sexually active on their own terms. Alanna has three relationships over the books, and calls her lovers out on their bullshit. Her other female leads also don’t hesitate to call out sexism. They are tough and they take on a man’s world in their own terms. This was revolutionary to me.

I’ve read pretty much everything she’s ever written, and even as an adult if she puts out a new book, the likelihood is that I’ll read it. Recently I even introduces Athena (age 9) to Alanna.

All of this is a lead in to say that she did a reading at Borderlands Books in San Francisco a week ago. They are an indie bookstore specializing in Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror. Readers of Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series will recognize it as she wrote it into a book. They ship nationwide, so I encourage you to patronize them if you like those genres.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve already seen this photo, but

I took Athena to the talk, and she was even brave enough to ask a question. Afterward, we got our books signed (Tamora wrote “girls rule” in Athena’s book and “women rule” in mine). I babbled something about how much Alanna had meant to me and how meaningful it has been to share her books with Athena (Arcadia is only 6–we’re reading Junie B Jones right now, but Alanna and Harry Potter will come eventually). She was just so gracious in the face of my babbling.

For me, my childhood–and even adulthood, to an extent–heroes are authors. I am in awe of people who can create these worlds I live in vicariously, whether it was The Baby-Sitter’s Club by Ann M. Martin in elementary school (I’m a Kristy) or Anne Bishop’s Jewel series today (I have a serious literary crush on Karla). It’s a huge reason I am a writer–I want to create my own worlds and my own characters.

Authors like Tamora Pierce inspire me, and make me even more excited to get back to my own work.